Be the change, being a teacher, being me, summer

Ending the Year on a High Note – Some Must Do’s As We Wrap Up

Yesterday, I wrote about what I wanted out of the year and how it had gone, and yet, within that post is also the hope for the coming few months, for the coming year. Isn’t it funny how we, as educators, already start to plan for the “new” year already in the spring?

And so with only a few precious weeks left, I wanted to once again share what my Must-Do’s for the year are in case anyone else wants a few ideas.

I plan on surveying my students.  While our school does both a home and student survey, I also need to know what I can work on.  Every year, the words of my students help me shape the experience to come.  Every year, the words of my students help me grow as an educator.  Don’t let the kids leave without helping you grow. To see this year’s survey, paper copy go here – I will do it as electronic version as well, to see that go here

I plan on keeping certain experiences and make a map.  Looking through the year and reflecting on what really worked, whether it was a lesson, an idea, or simply a moment, helps us think of the year to come.  Don’t let this year end without you realizing what worked.  Whether you go through lesson plans or simply write a bullet list, take note so that when the time comes for your ideas to come back, you have a place to start. We have started as a team to create our map for the upcoming year, this helps us plan and discuss what we want our students to experience with us.

I plan on face to face collaboration. Our district believes in paying teachers to collaborate over the summer, which I plan on once again taking advantage of. So as I take on a new class next year (Enriched English), I plan on spending time with those who know more than me. I am so grateful for this opportunity for concentrated learning.

I plan on getting rid of certain lessons.  While our experience inevitably changes year after year, there are also certain things that despite our best intentions simply didn’t work.  So I am getting rid of them both physically and mentally.  Goodbye feedback tracker! Goodbye reading rate tracker! Goodbye to you so that I can make room for better things.

I plan on freshening up the room.  Every year, i do revamp of our room, but this year I get to move rooms altogether to a larger room with more room for all of our books. So not only do I get to go through everything, but I also get to set up a whole new experience for the students. However, if I wasn’t moving, I would still move furniture, go through files, weed books, and just refresh everything. While we don’t have a lot of fancy furniture, these small changes help keep the pride in the room intact which shapes the experience.

I plan a focus.  This summer, I get to both teach others and learn from others and so I need a focus.  Where does my craft need to grow?  Writing continues to be a focal point, as well as the hard work of equity and social justice.  And so I go to conferences with a few goals in mind.  I read PD books with these goals in mind.  I reflect, invent, and write down ideas with these few goals in mind.  In the past, when I have had a broad focus, I feel I have learned little, but when I have a few questions in mind, such as how will I continue to help students understand their role in the world or how we will we create more meaningful writing experiences that will help students reignite their writing identities, then I leave summer with a few tangible ideas that shape our experience together. Some of these books are re-reads, others are brand new and I cannot wait to let the work of others shape the every day work I get to do with students.

My stack of summer PD reading awaits – I can’t wait.

I plan a break.  Teaching is amazing, it is my favorite thing to do as far as work., but it is also exhausting, heartbreaking at times, and hard.  So summer is time for a break, and not a kind of break where I still work, but one where I feel no guilt for not checking my email.  Where I feel no guilt for reading whatever I want even if it is slightly trashy.  Where I feel no guilt for not checking in, creating something, or coming up with new ideas.  But you have to plan for it or it won’t happen.  We know how consuming teaching can be, how it can spill into every part of summer, but don’t let it.  Allow yourself to detach completely so that you can get excited.  So that you can let ideas marinate in the back of your mind.  So that you can remember what it means to have a life, if even for a little bit, outside of teaching.  Because if you never leave, then you cannot get ready to come back.

Summer is a break.  A much-needed one for many.  But it is also an incredible time to become something more than what we ended as.  To remember why we entered teaching.  To get excited, to catch up on sleep, and to become the very best version that we can be of ourselves so that when September rolls around, or whenever our students come back, we can say, “I am so glad you are here,” and truly mean it.

PS: In case, you missed the announcement, I am running a book study of my first book Passionate Learners this summer in the Passionate Readers Facebook group. You should join us as it kicks off next weekend!

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.


books, Reading, Reading Identity, summer

A Few Ideas to Help Students Read Over the Summer

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Today the temperature hit 78 degrees. 78 glorious sunny degrees meant a day filled with ice cream, water fights, a nap in my hammock, and as many doors and windows open as possible. With this little taste of summer, my own kids naturally wondered when the days of summer would truly be here. Days filled with sleeping in, popsicles, trips to the pool and, of course, days spent reading. Reading whenever and whatever we would like. Reading aloud. Reading by ourselves. Listening to audiobooks as we travel. Heading to the library as often as we need, simply because we can. May every child have this type of summer ahead.

Yet, we know that for many children, summers do not mean days of glorious reading experience. Typically a third of my own 7th graders reveal that they never read a book in the summer, another third say they read one or so. This is despite the amazing reading experiences they have in the years before us. This is despite the amazing community support we have. We know the research on summer slide, such as what is compiled here by the Colorado Department of Education, and how important continuing to read is over break in order for students to continue to grow. So what can we do with the last few weeks upon us as we try to entice the kids to read once they are away from school? How can we ensure they still have access to great books and the motivation to read something? Here are a few ideas and feel free to add your own in the comments.

We can up our book recommendations. Now is the time to really amp up how many books we book talk in class. While students will also be recommending, we make it a point to recommend at least one or two books a day until the end for students to put on their to-be-read lists. With 35 teaching days left, that is at least 35 invitations to an incredible book.

Students can share their favorite read of the year through a speech. Another way to increase the titles on their to-be-read lists (a list that they created in the first week of school and which has been a central gathering place for their book ideas all year) is by doing a best book of the year speech. While last year we did it as a 15 word speech, this year we may revert to the past way of having them do it in a minute – they share a teaser to the book and why they recommend it. Behind them is a slide with the cover so their classmates (and me!) can write down the title recommendations. To see their favorite books from previous years, go here.

Our libraries can have summer check out. We have a beautiful school library with an amazing librarian and a library aide and they do summer check out every year. A few times before the end of the school year, they have extended after school hours with the sole purpose of having students check out books for over the summer. In the past, they have also had the library open a few times during the summer so students could come in and exchange books. Because not all of our students have many access points to book, this is a vital component in summer reading. I know not every child has a home flooded with books like my own, this is why it is so important we make books accessible to all kids without needing transportation or money to get them.

We can have our public library librarian come in. Every year, the librarian from our public library comes in to share what they will be doing over the summer as well as give library card recommendations. Partnering with your public library is another way to show the value of it and having them come in and speak to students reminds them of this wonderful opportunity.

We can read aloud the first chapter. Sometimes it takes more than a brief book talk to entice and so another great way is to read aloud the first chapter of the first few pages of a book to students in order to spike their interest and possibly add the book to their to-be-read list.

We can hand them a book on the last day of school. Last year, our team purchased a brand new book for every child on our team in order for them to bookshop on the last day of school. This was our way of thanking them for a great year and also providing them with one more opportunity to read a great book. I wrote more about the process here, which we will be repeating again this year.

We can provide ideas for great summer reading experiences to those at home. Last year, I wrote this blog post detailing ideas for how to create joyful reading experiences at home. This year, I plan on sharing it out again with those at home in case they need ideas.

We can share the data on summer slide. I think discussing with students why summer reading is so important is a vital component of trying to motivate them to read. A lot of our students have grown so much this year and as the year winds down we recognize that growth and then also remind them that it would be a shame if some of that growth was lost.

We can email or send home their to-be-read list. We always have students either take a picture of their to-be-read list and email it home to themselves and caregivers/parents, or make a copy of it and bring that home. We know that their notebooks get lost, some intentionally, some not, and so we don’t want this great list that they have curated all year to be for naught.

We can share our own to-be-read list and our reading. I love sharing my summer reading plans with students because I know exactly the types of books I want to read; amazing professional development books that will shape my teaching as well as can’t put down YA novels. I show them pictures of the piles of books waiting for me and I continue to use my Instagram account to recommend books (#PernilleRecommends), while this account is not solely for my students, many do follow me which then provides another way for me to send a recommendation their way.

There are other great ideas being shared on Twitter and in our Passionate Readers Facebook group such as holding voluntary book clubs over the summer, summer check out from our classroom libraries, and even hand delivering books to kids in their neighborhoods throughout the summer.

I know many schools who have summer reading lists with attached work for students, particularly teenagers, yet the rebel in me cannot help but question this; how is it our right to dictate what happens over their summer break even with our best intentions? This is why we start to discuss summer reading already in the fall, because it is not enough to think about it the final weeks of the year. We know that reading gets a lot of competition when students are not with us and so we try to develop a meaningful relationship with reading all year long in order for students to have some sliver of intrinsic motivation to pick up a book outside of the school day. We ground this work in them reflecting and developing their specific reading identity, sometimes it works, and sometimes it is still not enough. Yet for every book talk, for every book passed into their hands, for every enticing read shared with them, we hope that this year will be the year more kids read over the summer, that more kids find a book or more to help them grow, that this year will have mattered as they leave us.

PS: In case, you missed the announcement, I am running a book study of my first book Passionate Learners this summer in the Passionate Readers Facebook group. You should join us!

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

being a teacher, Reading, summer

Parents – How to Create Great Summer Reading Experiences for All

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I know many of us educators (and those at home) have been working hard all year to try to cultivate or protect a love of reading in our learners.   Now with warmer temperatures and summer beckoning for the Northern Hemisphere comes the real test; will kids keep reading over the summer?  Is what we did enough?  Did we lay enough of a foundation, get them excited, get them hooked so that the next few weeks or months will not put them in a reading drought?  While time will truly be the judge of how the work might pay off, here are a few ideas that may help depending on the age of the learner.

Have a to-be-read list.  All year we have cultivated ours, trying to add as many titles as possible so that when the students leave our classrooms they have something to help guide them when they are either at the library or at the bookstore.  This is especially important for our “fragile” readers, those who have just discovered that books and reading may be for them after all and need a constant diet of amazing books.  But really all kids should have one, not just some.  I just had students send home an email with their to-be-read list or create a Goodreads account, so reach out and ask your learner’s teacher to see if they have one made.  Even if the school has not created a to-be-read list it is not too late to make one!  Browse the displays at the library or at the bookstore and write it down somehow. Keep the list on you because you never know when you come across an opportunity to find more books.

Visit places where books are present.  We go to the library a lot; when it is too hot and the pool is not open, when it is stormy, when we are tired.  We also go to our local bookstore and browse.  Accessing book, touching books, getting excited about books and anything that we can read is vital to keep the desire alive.  Sign up for the public library’s reading challenge or make it a routine every week to go and get new books.  Spend a few hours reading while you are there.  If there is no library or the library is not accessible to you, reach out to your learner’s school, is there a way they can lend you books?  Our school library does a summer checkout before the end of the year, as do I.  If you are not able to go places where there are books, ask your child’s teacher if you may borrow a big stack of books from them if you promise to bring them back.  I have often lent books to families over the summer as a way to help them keep reading.

Make it social.  I love reading a great book and then talking to others about the book or even better passing the book on to them.  Make reading a social aspect of your summer; have reading “parties” where kids can discuss books, create a book swap with other families, scour garage sales for long-lost favorites.  Offer up yourself to read with your learner or get more than one copy of a book (if you have access to them) so that others may join in the reading.  Too often as parents we think we should read all of the books our child is reading and while that can be a fun bonding experience, it may be more powerful if you can get a friend of your child to be a reading partner.

Read aloud.  Many parents assume that their older kids do not want to be read aloud to, and yet, my students tell us repeatedly how much they miss it.  So why not find a great book and take some time to experience the book together?

Use audio books.  I love that I can borrow audio books from our library – both Harry Potter and the Lightning Thief series has captured our imagination for months.   When your children are in the car, put on an audio book.  Have a copy of the book ready if  anyone wants to keep reading and you have reached your destination.  With all of the research coming out correlating audio books with further reading success this is a winning situation.

Find great books.  Get connected online to communities like #Titletalk, #BookADay, #WeNeedDiverseBooks, or Nerdy Book Club to get ideas of what to read next.  I am constantly adding to my wish list due to these places.  Use the professionals like librarians, booksellers and teachers.  Also, ask other parents what their kids are reading, create a Facebook page to share recommendations or simply use you own page, anything to find out what great books are available.

Create a routine.  We read every night and sometimes even in the morning (as well as throughout the day but then again we may be slightly book obsessed).  Helping your child create a routine where reading is a natural part of the day mean that they will create ownership over the habit, thus (hopefully) inspiring further reading.  I encourage my students to read first thing in the morning before they get up or as the last thing they do before falling asleep.  Whatever the routine may be, sit down and read yourself, it is vital for all of our children to see their parents/caregivers as readers.

Allow real choice.  I have seen some parents (and schools) require learners to read certain books over summer, but summer is meant to be guilt-free reading.  Where we reach for those books we cannot wait to read because they will suck us right in, where we fill up our reserves so we can perhaps finally tackle that really challenging book that we have been wanting to read.  Where we explore new books because we want to.  Too often rules and expectations infringe on the beauty of summer reading; falling into a book’s pages and not having to come up for air until it is done.  That also goes for reading things that may be “too easy” or “too hard” – I devour picture books, graphic novels and all thing “too easy” in the summer, as well as trashy beach reads and Danish crime mysteries.  I refuse to feel guilty about my choices in reading, because that is never what reading is about.

Have books everywhere.  Again, this depends on how many books you have access to, but leave books wherever your kids go.  I have books in the car, in their rooms, in the kitchen, living room, etc.  That way the books seem to fall into their hands at random times; stopped in traffic, quiet time before lunch, a sneak read before falling asleep.  It is a luxury to have books in our house and so we try to make them as visible as possible.

Celebrate abandonment, but ask questions.  When a child abandons a book, this is a great thing.  They are learning that this book is not for them and they can use their energy for a book that will be for them.  But ask questions so that they may think about what type of book they might like.  So they can think about what type of reader they are and want to be.  Make sure that there are other books they want to read as well so that they can keep trying to find great books.

Explore new books together.  Summer can be a great time to try to push your own habits of reading, as long as it doesn’t feel like a chore.  Set a reading challenge, compete against each other if you want, challenge each other to read each other’s favorite books and revel in the shared experience.

Be invested and interested.  This does not mean that you ask your child to write reports about what they read, in fact, I would be very careful as to what type of work goes along with reading over the summer beside reading, but do ask questions.  Ask whether they enjoy the book or not.  What they plan on reading next.  Read along with them or beside them.  Make reading a part of your life so it can become a part of theirs.

Keep it fun.  Too often, especially if our child is not a well-developed reader, we can get rather nervous as parents and think that we must keep them on a regimented reading program at all costs.  That we must have them write about reading or track it somehow.  Have them read, yes, but keep it light and fun.  The last thing we want to do is to make reading a worse experience for them or adding more stress to your family.

What other ideas do you have?

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

 

being a teacher, being me, Literacy, Reading, summer

Parents – How to Help Your Child Love Reading Over the Summer

I know many of us educators (and those at home) have been working hard all year to try to cultivate or protect a love of reading in our learners.   Now with warmer temperatures and summer beckoning for the Northern Hemisphere comes the real test; will kids keep reading over the summer?  Is what we did enough?  Did we lay enough of a foundation, get them excited, get them hooked so that the next few weeks or months will not put them in a reading drought?  While time will truly be the judge of how the work might pay off, here are a few ideas that may help depending on the age of the learner.

Have a to-be-read list.  All year we have cultivated ours, trying to add as many titles as possible so that when the students leave our classrooms they have something to help guide them when they are either at the library or at the bookstore.  This is especially important for our “fragile” readers, those who have just discovered that books and reading may be for them after all and need a constant diet of amazing books.  But really all kids should have one, not just some.  Even if school has not created a to-be-read list it is not too late to make one!  Browse the displays at the library or at the book store and write it down somehow. Keep the list on you because you never know when you come across an opportunity to find more books.

Visit places where books are present.  We go to the library a lot; when it is too hot and the pool is not open, when it is stormy, when we are tired.  We also go to our local book store and browse.  Accessing book, touching books, getting excited about books and anything that we can read is vital to keep the desire alive.  If you are not able to go places where there are books, ask your child’s teacher if you may borrow a big stack of books from them if you promise to bring them back.  I have often lent books to families over the summer as a way to help them keep reading.

Make it social.  I love reading a great book and then talking to others about the book or even better passing the book on to them (as long as they give it back).  Make reading a social aspect of your summer; have reading “parties” where kids can discuss books, create a book swap with other families, scour garage sales for long-lost favorites.  Offer up yourself to read with your learner or get more than one copy of a book (if you have access to them) so that others may join in the reading.  Too often as parents we think we should read all of the books our child is reading and while that can be a fun bonding experience, it may be more powerful if you can get a friend of your child to be a reading partner.

Use audio books.  I love that I can borrow audio books from our library – the entire Harry Potter series has been the backdrop to our commute for the past 4 months.  When your children are in the car, put on an audio book.  Have a copy of the book ready if  anyone wants to keep reading and you have reached your destination.  With all of the research coming out correlating audio books with further reading success this is a winning situation.

Find great books.  Get connected online to communities like #Titletalk, #BookADay, or Nerdy Book Club to get ideas of what to read next.  I am constantly adding to my wish list due to these two places.  Use the professionals like librarians,booksellers and teachers.  Also, ask other parents what their kids are reading, create a Facebook page to share recommendations or simply use you own page, anything to find out what great books are available.

Create a routine.  We read every night and sometimes even in the morning (as well as throughout the day but then again we may be slightly book obsessed).  Helping your child create a routine where reading is a natural part of the day mean that they will create ownership over the habit, thus (hopefully) inspiring further reading.

Allow real choice.  I have seen some parents (and schools) require learners to read certain books over summer, but summer is meant to be guilt-free reading.  Where we reach for those books we cannot wait to read because they will suck us right in, where we fill up our reserves so we can perhaps finally tackle that really challenging book that we have been wanting to read.  Where we explore new books because we want to.  Too often rules and expectations infringe on the beauty of summer reading; falling into a book’s pages and not having to come up for air until it is done.  That also goes for reading things that may be “too easy” or “too hard” – I devour picture books, graphic novels and all thing “too easy” in the summer, as well as trashy beach reads and Danish crime mysteries.  I refuse to feel guilty about my choices in reading, because that is never what reading is about.

Have books everywhere.  Again, this depends on how many books you have access to, but leave books wherever your kids go.  I have books in the car, in their rooms, in the kitchen, living room, etc.  That way the books seem to fall into their hands at random times; stopped in traffic, quiet time before lunch, a sneak read before falling asleep.  It is a luxury to have books in our house and so we try to make them as visible as possible.

Celebrate abandonment, but ask questions.  When a child abandons a book, this is a great thing.  They are learning that this book is not for them and they can use their energy for a book that will be for them.  But ask questions so that they may think about what type of book they might like.  So they can think about what type of reader they are and want to be.  Make sure that there are other books they want to read as well so that they can keep trying to find great books.

Be invested and interested.  This does not mean that you ask your child to write reports about what they read, in fact, I would be very careful as to what type of work goes along with reading over the summer beside reading, but do ask questions.  Ask whether they enjoy the book or not.  What they plan on reading next.  Read along with them or beside them.  Make reading a part of your life so it can become a part of theirs.

Keep it fun.  Too often, especially if our child is not a well-developed reader, we can get rather nervous as parents and think that we must keep them on a regimented reading program at all costs.  That we must have them write about reading or track it somehow.  Have them read, yes, but keep it light and fun.  The last thing we want to do is to make reading a worse experience for them or adding more stress to your family.

What other ideas do you have?

If you are wondering why there seems to be a common thread to so many of my posts as of late, it is because I am working on two separate literacy books.  While the task is daunting and intimidating, it is incredible to once again get to share the phenomenal words of my students as they push me to be a better teacher.  Those books will be published in 2017 hopefully, so until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

 

Reading, students, summer

Help Us Create the Best Summer Reading List Ever!

This year has been the year of reading; I don’t think I have ever read so many fantastic books, I don’t think I have ever spent so much money on books, and I couldn’t be happier.  Except now I am faced with a problem; my 5th graders are starting to seriously ponder what they should read over the summer and I running out of ideas.  I have about 30 books to read myself and I have been piling books on their desks but we need a seriously massive list to get us through the summer.  So please help us by filling out any of these boxes on our form.  Pass it around; ask your students, your colleagues  your favorite librarians, and we promise to share all of the results.

Please help us make the best summer reading list ever!

Reading, students, summer

Summer Reading Programs for Students

As many of the students continue to cherish their books this summer, I thought I would highlight a few summer reading programs which can give them free books or other incentives since they are already reading.

  • The public library always has a great summer reading program. We do get to have a presentation next week on what they have to offer, but otherwise check out their website for more information.  Often students can earn books or participate in book events throughout summer.
  • Barnes & Noble are offering up their summer reading program as well.  This program runs  between May 24th and September 6th and any child can sign up.  With a kick off event here in Madison on June 2nd, students can pick up their logs and then earn books throughout the summer.
  • Half Price books also offers a program from June 1st to July 31st.  This program called Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program offers students a $5 gift card to use at Half Price Books if they read 300 pages.
  • Scholastic has a program they call the Summer Challenge.  Either educators or parents can register kids and then they can log their minutes of reading.  They can then enter to win prizes or do challenges on the Scholastic website.
  • Amazon runs a 4-for-3 program where you can purchase 4 books and get the lowest one for free.  While this isn’t an incentive program it is nice way to get more books.
  • The blog, My Frugal Adventures,  also has a list of a variety of other reading incentive programs being offered if you are interested.

I hope this is helpful for this summer; happy reading!